December 1, 2010

Shall We Dance?

Somehow, Duke taught me how to dance.

I was one of those kids in high school who stood in the corner with his friends at events like prom, refusing to dance. I was too self-conscious and too uptight. I acted like I didn't care about it, like I was "above" dancing or that I was too "cool" to dance, but I secretly always wanted to be out there on the floor having fun. I don't think any of my high-school friends would call me the life of the party, or even a part of the party, really. I wasn't shy, but I just couldn't bring myself to dance.

Entering Duke's party scene gave me a fresh start. I decided to give dancing a try, and it wasn't so bad. I managed. I had fun.

With the solution to that problem came another. With whom, exactly, am I supposed to dance? And where?

Dancing with both my male and female friends in groups is fine. I have a great time. When it comes to dancing one-on-one, however, the situation becomes a little more difficult. If I go to Shooters, I can't help but watch the couples with jealousy. I want to dance with someone to whom I'm really attracted, too.

And I have. Once upon a Tailgate (my first and only...), I danced with one of my gay friends. We danced... well. Being very new to Duke, I don't think I ever would have mustered up the courage to dance like that with a guy in that venue out of the Tailgate state of mind. We received a few compliments and pats on the back, but, even more so, we received criticism. Members of whichever section in which we were dancing asked us to leave, but we didn't. No one seemed to have a problem with us aside from these few people. That's what we told them. We weren't bothering anyone. They left us alone. We danced on.

Of course, that's not how every situation (or perhaps even most situations) plays out.

I'm writing this to hear your stories and your thoughts. I don't know if dancing like that is something I would do again in a similar situation. Of course I want to, and of course I have every right to, but would I? I don't know. Removed from the comfort of an LGBT-friendly club, would you dance with whom you really want to dance? Would you take your partner to Shooters?

I know there are places where I can dance with whomever I want without judgment, but, when the moment's right, I should be able to dance wherever, whenever, right?


  1. AHHHHHH. I LOVE this. So so so much. If you know anything about me, I love to bust out a little dance wherever I may be. Coupled dancing is a different story though. Sure--I've danced with Hilary a ton, but they're always in spaces where we've been surrounded by queer friends and safe clubs.

    I think we should gay up Shooters and do a flashmob freakdance.

  2. Omg yes - can we *please* queer Shooters up?


    Sorry, I'm good now.

    So, as you might have guessed, I *love love love* dancing. By which I mean that if I hear a song I like, I will start (read: have on multiple occasions started) dancing in the middle of a grocery aisle.

    Given this, I've danced with a whole range of people, including other girls a lot. This whether or not I was physically attracted to them -- I actually learned how to salsa with my best friend, and if I go out dancing, it’s usually with a girl I’m dating or with a female friend. Although most of this is at Latin dance clubs or similar gatherings, which aren’t particularly LGBT-friendly, I can’t remember ever being asked to leave for dancing with a girl -- I have gotten quite a few confused/unpleasant looks, but even when I was with my girlfriend (and, er, very obviously *with* her), apparently most people assumed that we were dancing together because no men had asked us to dance, or we were shy, or modest (HAH), or something. Which… I don’t know if I’d call it better than your experience, but it was different.

    I approve of this Shooters idea.

  4. I danced with another gay man at shooters once. I think. As most shooters-nights go, however, I don't really recall...

  5. I completely agree! I know I certainly enjoyed LGBTQ night at Vespa two weekends ago, and it's great to be in a place where everyone involved is so open and accepting. The other thing I've found, is that if I dance with other LGBTQ individuals (and sort of seek them out at parties, or simply go together), we can usually dance with no problem. :D Yay for community!

  6. I've also danced with another guy at shooters. Right in the middle of the crowd actually and on the bar... and in the cage... (feel free to judge me). I was surprised that there was not any backlash from doing this. Only a few people seemed to notice and those happened to be girls that actually wanted to dance with us. We invited them to dance with us and they commended us and thought it was really cool that we were dancing together. I was pleasantly surprised. I think sometimes you just have to go for it and see what happens. You might be surprised by the results. I know I was.

  7. Thanks for the responses, everyone. So, a flashmob would surely be lots of fun, but... what about when you're not all there? That's the point behind my post. Sure, it's easier to dance when everyone is doing it (just like it was easier to handhold while everyone was doing it). Like Megan said, "Yay for community," but the community isn't necessarily with me everywhere I go.

    From a text message conversation I had not long ago:

    "You can dance one-on-one as long as it's not like dirty grinding or aggressively making out."

    Who says? That's what everyone is doing at Shooters/everywhere else. If I want to do that, do I have to go to a special club?

    Later on, that same friend said something I very much agree with: "Step one is not giving a flip." Leading me to...

    AJ - That's encouraging to hear. The more I've thought about this and discussed it with friends, I've realized that I would probably go for it if I wanted.

  8. Aside from the "every guy grab a girl" line, the song "Dancing in the Street" by Martha and the Vandellas pretty much sums up my feelings about dancing in public. Unless your safety is in question, dance away with whomever you want. Worry not about the stares because they only embody the narrow-mindedness of the people staring. The best way to gain acceptance in this world is for LGBT people to live our lives like anyone else. Would a straight couple worry about dancing in public? No, then neither should we. If we treat two men or two women dancing in public as a special circumstance then others certainly will. When we stop worrying about it, the stigma other people place upon it will fade.

  9. Wow, Ryan. I don't think that I have ever stopped to think about dancing with another guy other than at Vespa or another LGBT friendly club. However, I think that I would be comfortable dancing with a guy, but I wouldn't go as far as making out with him. While I understand your friend's point about straight people being able to grind up on one another, it would be difficult for me to ignore the stares and the whispers. Perhaps, I am not as comfortable with myself and my sexuality as much as I like to think that I am? It's easy for me to say that I won't give a flip now, but once I am on that dance floor, I might not be as confident to cast away my doubts and fears. However, I do believe that we have to be the change that we wish to see in the world. Basically, how can we expect the world to be comfortable with us dancing with our partners when we ourselves are uncomfortable with dancing with our partners? It's like saying how can we expect the world to become more accepting of LGBT people if we cannot even accept ourselves?


    That's really all there is to say.